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Buying a trailer tent or folding camper


  Trailer tents and folding campers: the ultimate guide

Trailer tents and folding campers come in a range of styles, sizes and vintages, with a wide choice of makes and models available.
If you understand the basics you’re better placed make an informed buying decision and recognize a good buy when you see one.
Read our buying guide for all the information you need to help you choose a trailer tent or folding camper

#Where can I buy a trailer tent or folding camper?

There’s a ready supply of both new and used trailer tents and folding campers out there, so the decision to buy new or second hand usually comes down to price.

The best places to start are specialist camping shops and dealers where you’ll be able to see a full range erected to get an idea of the sort of space you’re likely to need, together with an indication of the sort of prices you can expect to pay.

Most trailer tent specialists will carry an extensive range of new stock and some specialists carry a good selection of used tents as well. It will cost a bit more to buy from a dealer than a private sale but it gives you a little more protection if something goes wrong.

The internet is by far the biggest source of used trailer tents and folding campers, as well as the classified sections of the local paper where it’s still possible to pick up a real bargain.

But the same rules apply to them all. Know what you’re looking for and never bid without seeing the tent erected and the electrics working.

#Buying a new trailer tent or folding camper

Buying new can be a more convenient option than going second-hand and takes a lot of the uncertainty out of the process.

Even if you do decide that trailer tenting isn’t for you, you should still get a significant proportion of your money back when you come to sell.

When buying new, on some budget models, items like the corner steadies, spare wheel and kitchen unit are extras – so check with the dealer rather than assuming that they’re included.

Some dealers will throw in extras such as a full gas bottle to clinch the deal and you might want to haggle to get a camping grade extension lead to provide power if your trailer doesn’t have a hook-up point.

#Buying a used trailer tent or folding camper

By far the widest selection of used trailer tents is to be found online, where various auction websites like eBay, Schpock and Gumtree usually have dozens on offer – from barely serviceable scrappers for less than £100, right up to nearly new ex-demonstrator models which a dealer needs to sell quickly to make way for new stock.

When browsing online, it’s important to know what you’re looking at in terms of the make, model and any extras included. Don’t bid on anything you aren’t 100% certain about and ask to see the tent erected at the vendor’s home prior to bidding.

Make sure they still have the manual and instructions and, if possible, ask if they can connect it up to the car to check the lights.

Classified adverts are still a good source for used trailer tents and scouring your local newspapers’ small ads might yield a real bargain if you stumble across a barely used trailer tent which the owner is keen to offload.

# What to look out for when buying second hand

There’s nothing too technical to worry about on the average trailer tent, but check the bodywork for dents and dings, which could be an indication of an accident. Have a good look underneath for signs of damage to the chassis.

Many trailer tents are stored outside and while the vendor may insist it’s been stored in a nice, dry garage, uneven fading of the cover or tide marks where puddles have formed on the top are a bit of a giveaway. As long as the tent has been properly dried before being laid up for winter, this isn’t necessarily a problem, but any damp patches in the tent will deteriorate quickly if stored outside over winter.

Check the wheels, tyres and hitch for any signs of damage or excessive wear. On older models, look for cracks in the tyres’ sidewalls, as these will often degrade before the tread wears out.

Check the poles are straight and any mechanisms operate smoothly without the need for excessive force.

Check all the seams for unraveling threads or other signs of stress and also inspect any stains or fading. If you find any signs of damp, walk away.

The odd small rip in non-critical areas is easily repaired, but larger tears or cracks in the window plastic are a more complicated undertaking. Finally, check every zip carefully, as replacing these can be costly.

Be wary of any electrical or gas items and get them checked over by a properly accredited fitter.

# How much should I spend?

Second-hand trailers tents from manufacturers like Combi-Camp or Camp-Let still command hefty premiums on the used market and tend to be harder to find, so if you’re set on one of these, it’s likely to take longer to find a good one on the second-hand market and you’ll still pay a premium for it.

A good quality folding camper from brands like Pennine and Conway can be picked up for less than £1,000.

You’ll pay a bit more for a used tent at a dealer than you would for a private sale, but you should get a warranty of sorts and if you do find anything wrong with it when you get home, the dealer will put it right.

 Under £500

Elderly second-hand tents with strained seams, bent poles and maybe the   odd badly patched rip, but you might get lucky. Always a steady supply on internet auction sites

 £500 - £1,000

Reasonably modern (2005 and older), well-maintained second-hand tents which should be in good working order. Expect the odd issue, but this should buy you a serviceable tent which will last several more seasons

 £1,000 - £2,500

Well looked-after used tents which should be in near-perfect condition. Look for useful accessories such as fridges, lighting and hook-up cables to be included in the price and if buying from a dealer, ask about warranties

 £2,500 - £5,000

This sort of money buys a basic new tent or a top-end used tent which will be less than three years old and if purchased from a dealer - it should come with some sort of warranty. Expect perfection at this price. Older Combi-Camps and Camp-Lets will still command this sort of money

 £5,000 - £7,500

An excellent choice of new tents and nearly new Combi-Camp and Camp-Lets. Be prepared to haggle, demand a warranty and see if you can get a few extras thrown in.

 £7,500 +

This sort of money will buy you the most desirable new trailer tents which are swift to erect and simple to maintain – although the most expensive Combi-Camps can still top £10,000


Finished reading?

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Our "Trailer tents and folding campers: The ultimate guide" is full of essential buying advice.

  Buying a trailer tent or folding camper: the ultimate guide

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